Nothing Nice to Say About Oil Based Paint (Or How to Know Your Walls Are Covered in It)

Painting Project.

Day 14.

Or so it feels. I think it’s actually only day one, but I’ve been inhaling a lot of fumes, so I’m not really required to remember what day it is anymore.

Today I attempt charcoal gray in the bathroom. While picking out the color at Home Depot, I received unsolicited feedback from an old guy about my color pairing. He saw me checking my shade of gray against a swatch of pink, and observed, “That’s a dark color, but I noticed you picked the right accent to accompany it.” I thanked him dismissively, hoping he’d bugger off, but no such luck.

He proceeded to ignore all of my non-subtle cues that absolutely screamed “go away” and followed me around instead. I finally managed to shake him in the Martha Stewart glitter section while he was telling me in not-so-flattering language what he thought of the woman. (I need to move. My neighborhood is full of weirdos.)

After the mildly irritating encounter, I return home and begin taping off every light switch, door frame, baseboard and cabinet.

My bathroom looks like it has been prepped for the zombie apocalypse, with plastic Hazmat-like sheets taped to my shower and toilet.

My shower is ready to repel zombies.

Beware, zombies. 

My dog periodically comes by to inspect my progress.


Carry on, lady. I’m going to go back to licking my balls.

Dear Lord, for a tiny room there are a lot of things to tape off! Of course I run out of blue tape before completing this endeavor. It is now 10 pm. (I never want to see blue painter’s tape again.)

I decide to watch Iron Eagle for the 443rd time instead. I will return to this fresh hell tomorrow.

Day Two of the Bathroom Project.

The taping is complete. I am finally ready to paint.

The matte finish half of my bathroom goes off without a hitch, and I’m ready to tackle the shower area with semi-gloss. (My bathroom has a door separating the sink area from the toilet and the tub.)

I wash the paint roller, brush, edge brush, and 42 other accessories in preparation for the semi-gloss paint. The existing walls are shiny, and I assume they were painted with semi-gloss water-based paint.

Who wouldn’t assume such a thing?

Oil-based paint is illegal in California after all….

I begin applying the paint, and it’s ugly. Streaky and ugly.

Um, what?

I assume there’s probably too much water in the brushes from having been recently rinsed. Some parts of the wall look better than others, but mostly it just looks like hell in here. Plastic-covered, streaky, zombie hell.

I have now closed the bathroom door, enclosing myself in this tiny tomb of a room so that I can paint around the doorframe. Running the ceiling fan also necessitates running the heat lamp. It’s hot in here. Hot and nasty. I hate painting. I hate Behr. I hate Benjamin Moore. I hate life.

I am probably high.

I don’t hear the dogs, which generally means they’re sleeping or they’re causing trouble… the silent kind of trouble. That’s always the worst kind. It usually involves opening my pantry and eating an entire bag of coconut… a Betsey Johnson dress from my walk-in…

So long sequined hem.

So long sequined hem.

Or a defenseless bear…

So long, my friend. Albus is sorry about your face.

Farewell, old friend. Albus is sorry about your face.

I emerge from my fume-filled tomb to check on the dogs. They’re sleeping on the couch like angels. (I am definitely high. And clearly hallucinating.)

At this point it occurs to me that perhaps my bathroom had originally been painted with an oil-based paint.

I decide to consult Google.

Lo and behold, yes, my bathroom is showing all signs of having originally been painted with an oil-based paint.

This peeling situation was my first clue.

This peeling situation was my first clue.

Fuck. Me.

eHow tells me I’m going to have to sand my walls to rectify the situation. I should mention this means not only sanding the new coat of paint I’ve added but the original coat as well. Double fuck.

I start sanding. 1/10 of the way through, I have grit raining down all over me.

Sanding? Is not sexy.

Sanding? Is not sexy.

I’m thinking I should invest in a belt sander. I’m sweating, swearing, and sanding — all in equal measure. I decide there is nothing good about oil-based paint.

Nothing. At. All.

I keep telling myself this is a good arm work out….

Hour 92 of sanding. (Well, not really, but it feels like it.) I was joking earlier about the belt sander, but now I’m looking at power sanders on the Home Depot website.

They’re only $29.97?!?

If I don’t finish this job by the time I have to leave for my friend Nicole’s birthday party, I’m totally buying a sander tomorrow.


I do not finish sanding before leaving for Nicole’s party.

I head out for the dinner where I end up sitting next to my dear friend Ryan, an attorney specializing in product liability and class action lawsuits. As I regale everyone with my harrowing tale of sanding, he informs me I should be wearing a mask.

Something about lead and asbestos in older buildings…

(I tune him out and go back to my anecdote.) You should probably look into masks before you sand anything, though. He probably had a point. (Ryan always has a point.)

Day Three of the Bathroom Painting Project.

I do end up buying a Ryobi power sander the next day, and I am now the happiest person alive.

I LOVE my new toy!

I finish the vile sanding so much faster this way and finally set about re-painting my ceiling and walls. Many, many hours later, I am done.

Life is much better now.

And you know what? The weirdo from Home Depot was right. I did pick the right color of gray.

And you know what? The weirdo from Home Depot was right. I did pick the right color of gray.